Should Safe Standing be introduced to improve the fan experience in Scotland?

Date: 14th August 2015

THE myth that standing at a football match is more dangerous than sitting has long since been disproved.

In stadiums across Germany, Austria, Sweden, The US and Canada the success and security of Safe Standing areas have shown that rail seating, amongst other forms, provide a perfectly safe option for fans to stand while they watch football matches.

As Celtic have announced the planned introduction of rail seats at Celtic Park, it is time for other Scottish clubs to look at the option of introducing safe terrace areas to improve the fans experience at our clubs.

Neil Doncaster and the SPL announced years ago that, so long as a club has the local police force and local safety committee satisfied with their pilot scheme, clubs can introduce safe standing areas.

Here at the SFSA we are helping clubs look at the issues and opportunities surrounding safe standing, because we believe that almost every football fan can see the benefits of having some safe standing zones in their stadium.

German style Rail seating, backed by the Safe Standing Roadshow and the Football Supporters Federation, would allow clubs to make sections or entire stands terraces again.

This could greatly improve the atmosphere of many grounds, as it is widely accepted that fans sing more while standing than when they are seated. The majority of younger to middle aged fans in particular are believed to prefer standing to sitting, so forcing them to sit is clearly counterproductive.

Of course, vice versa no fans should be forced to stand, and thus a balance of seating and standing areas should be sought by clubs. The majority of elderly fans and parents with young children wish to sit at football matches. By separating the different categories, the users of both have a greatly improved experience.

Those that wish to sit will no longer worry about their view being blocked by someone standing in front of them. Concurrently, those who wish to stand should not have to feel guilty about doing so in case they impede the person behind them.

The reality is that many fans do stand up anyway, regardless of the all seater stadiums which are now in place. At Hampden Park, it is clear to see that the majority of fans stand throughout entire matches.

There is standing throughout games at several stadiums already, introducing Safe Standing would simply make standing official. It would also make it, the clues in the title, safe. Rail seating ensures that overcrowding cannot occur, as well as remove the anxiety and annoyance that the current situation incurs.

A supporter survey carried out by the FSF in 2009 found that three out of every four fans who prefer to stand at games have been told or asked to sit by a steward or police officer.

This can be a continuing source of friction between the fans and the authorities, particularly at away games. Fans can and have been ejected for persistent standing in seated areas, which could be completely resolved by the introduction of Safe standing areas.

Clubs may feel that the cost of installing rail seating is a big deterrent. But standing areas typically accommodate a higher density of supporters, meaning that more fans can fit in the same area and thus more tickets can be sold.

This also results in allowing ticket prices to be lower than in seated areas, which encourages more people to attend which not only boosts attendances but also allows people from every wage bracket to attend.

The Safe Standing Roadshow have visited Scottish clubs with a view to helping explain how crowdfunding could help pay for re-introducing standing, should the fans appetite be strong enough.

As an example, through Tifosy, a crowdfunding platform, fans raised over £250,000 to help Portsmouth FC build a training ground for their first team and academy.

A similar method could be used to help clubs introduce rail seating into their stadiums should the club not be able to afford all or some of the costs.

While we don’t believe fans should have to pay for the right to stand in their own stadiums, it is clear that fans are willing to help their clubs should it improve their own and the clubs situation. The Foundation of Hearts are a case in point.

With Celtic already signed up, and a list of benefits to each club and their supporters, it is clear that Safe Standing could and arguably should form a part of every ground in Scotland.

 

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